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eBay Buying Guide

by Vaughn Aubuchon

I have been buying items on eBay for about 1 year now. Here is a summary of my experiences, to help guide the NEW eBay user through a few of the pitfalls, and provide a more satisfying buying experience.

Tips 1       Tips 3

Tips 2       Tips 4


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1 - eBay Buyers Tips

Sniping -
Getting that Item You Really Want

I learned this by having it done to me, over and over again.
If there is an item that you REALLY, REALLY want, you have 3 options -
     A. Buy it now - an option which may not be offered.
     B. Bid the moon - 5 times more than the item is worth, or
     C. Sniping - This strategy demands that you are in front of your computer when the auction is ending. Bid once early, just so you can easily watch it. DON'T chase the bidding, or you will reveal your intent, and tip your hand! Then, sit yourself down 10 minutes before the auction ends. Turn off your phone and get all the people out of the room. Refresh every minute, to observe the bidding pattern. With 30 seconds to go, make your second bid 2 TIMES the current bid. The "five-bucks-per-increase" moneysaving bidders will not have enough time to react before the auction ends. Works great. I know only too well, having been snookered many times. Ha-ha. Now it's my turn.

Sellers are Preferred over Buyers - They Pay eBay
Sellers pay a 3% commission to eBay - Buyers pay nothing. Therefore, sellers are given the greatest leeway, and are held in higher esteem. A buyer MUST leave feedback FIRST, which CANNOT be changed.

Only about 80% of buyers leave feedback, even though the buyer performed PERFECTLY, and left highly positive feedback. Try not to get too upset about this - that's the way it is. Of course, you should NEVER buy anything ever again from any seller who does not give you good feedback, when you have performed flawlessly. You can at least make sure to do that. I have my checklist; do you have yours?

Seller Quality
Many sellers have sold over 10,000 items, and maintain a 100% approval rating. Why would you buy from someone who has sold less than 100 items, and has a rating of less than 96%?
I will never buy from sellers with a Positive Rating of less than 96%. They just aren't trying hard enough. They have angered 40 people out of every 1000 - too many.

I will only buy from sellers with a Positive Rating of over 98% - why gamble? There are so many EXCELLENT sellers. When a seller has sold hundreds of items, and has a 100% positive feedback rating, I buy with no hesitation whatsoever.


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2 - eBay Buyers Tips

Deceptive Advertising
is Allowed

1. You are NEVER going to find any "GOLD COINS" in any "unwashed, unsorted" pile of "Roman coins". Gold NEVER tarnishes, and would be scooped up in 1 second. For a photograph representing what they are selling, they show you a picture of a bag. A BAG! And a gold coin. Don't let greed make you stupid. Highly reputable coin sellers are on eBay, but you do have to research who they are. BEWARE!

2. "Ming Dynasty Vase - minimum bid 1 penny, shipping $200". Sure. Good luck. Be particularly wary of countries which don't speak your language - the greatest source of fraud. It is so easy for there to be a "misunderstanding", due to the "translation". "Oh, didn't you realize it was fake, phony, ersatz, spurious, a reproduction? You are stupid if you thought it was real, even though I didn't say so." BEWARE!

3. When referring to high-tech items, "Untested" may be honest, if the seller has a 100% approval rating. But it usually means, "IT IS BROKEN, and DOESN'T WORK". If the item WORKED, they would say so. Don't you think that they would test it, so they could sell it as "working"? Do not HOPE that the item may be OK. Use common sense. An item that is "TESTED", or "WORKING" is worth far more that an item that is assured not to work. BEWARE!

Beware of what constitutes "WORKING". A seller may be selling a Geiger counter, and claim that it works, because he put in a battery, switched to "Circuit Check", and the needle on the meter moved. This means that the METER is working, but says nothing about the ability of the device to detect radiation (I bought 2 of these worthless paperweights). BEWARE!

Many "Ion Chamber Detectors" (CDV-710, 715, 717, 720, etc.) are sold as "Geiger counters". They are nothing of the sort. A Geiger counter is HUNDREDS of times more sensitive than an Ion Chamber detector. In addition, a Geiger counter can detect Alpha, Beta, and Gamma radiation; an ion chamber can only detect strong Gamma radiation (sometimes strong Beta).

4. Some buyers put up ONE photograph, to represent multiple items they are selling. What you see, WILL NOT be what you get. Personally, I want to see THE ITEM I am buying, not some single "prettified" photo, of a cherry-picked item. BEWARE!



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3 - eBay Buyers Tips

Feedback - You Must Lie
When giving feedback, you are forced to lie about the small stuff - slow shipment, poor packaging, item different than pictured - or else the sellers will tag you as a whiner. If you are FAIRLY satisfied with your purchase, and hope to get highly positive feedback, then LIE. Politics are at eBay, just like every other place in the world. I want an impeccable buyer reputation, how about you?

Credit Card Required to Change Email Address
Even though you always pay CASH (US Government Money Order), and NEVER plan to use a Credit Card number on eBay, you MUST provide a Credit Card number, to change your email address. My old email address has been dead for a year, but I can't change it, because of this.

It doesn't seem to affect my buying. Just be sure to tell the seller your CURRENT VALID email address, when communicating with them. Avoid any misunderstanding that may arise, when your ancient email address hiccups, which of course it will, if someone tries to use it. And they will, since eBay CONTINUES to give them the WRONG data. I wish eBay would fix this, but instead, they send you into a Catch 22 infinite loop of frustration, for which there is no resolution.

Shipping Charges
Are the shipping charges visible, right there in front of your face? ALWAYS get the shipping charges, BEFORE you checkout, not during. You may be in for a surprise. Some sellers like to "pad" their sale, by charging high for "shipping", when in fact, they are adding a significant "handling charge". BEWARE! Some unscrupulous sellers will charge for premium shipping, and then send the item the cheapest way. Check the shipping charges when your item arrives.


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4 - eBay Buyers Tips

Nonstandard "Partner" Checkout - DON'T DO IT!
I encountered this today (10-19-06). That's why I created this page. I have never seen it before. I should have realized something was amiss when it was difficult to determine a shipping amount. All the checkout screens were foreign - there were TWICE as many as normal eBay checkout. I just assumed that eBay had updated their "checkout interface". Then, the software asked me for my PASSWORD. HUH? WHAT PASSWORD? My eBay password? I'm ALREADY signed in. I do not know them from Adam, so I backed out IMMEDIATELY. I DID NOT COMPLETE THE TRANSACTION.
(UPDATE 10-19-06: EVEN THOUGH I did NOT enter the required password, did NOT complete the transaction, and backed all the way out, and EVEN THOUGH I received an email from them, which stated that "I can file with eBay that we have mutually agreed to not complete the transaction", and I AGREED to that -
my ebay "Items I've Won" now tells me to "PAY NOW". I DIDN'T BUY IT. HELLO? If you don't complete checkout, they will COMPLETE IT FOR YOU. Password or no password.)

(Update 10-20-06: Because this transaction has been "mutually agreed" to be withdrawn by both parties, I have agreed not to reveal the problem username, who is using the problem "third-party-checkout system". In return, there will be no "strike" against me (interesting term). I shall therefore discuss this problem in general terms.)

I want to deal with eBay, and EBAY ONLY. What am I supposed to do? Spend extra time trying to check out some OTHER PAYEE, who jumps in front of my face, with a NEW LIST of "Terms" longer than my arm? Not likely. The standard eBay system has worked perfectly in the past. I have NO INTEREST in any previously unknown, unannounced, and undefined third party transactions.

In the future, if you are checking out, and everything does not look familiar, back out immediately. Unless you like to jump through extra hoops, and immediately trust someone you don't know, right out of the wild blue yonder! No introduction, no nothing. "Oh, eBay isn't here right now, but I will take your money, after you give me your password." No way, José. Do you think I'm an idiot?

THE BAD NEWS - Loss of eBay Trust
I have not been able to find a list of "trusted eBay partners" at eBay Help, or by searching Google. If they are so "trusted", then why won't eBay tell us who they are? And HOW MANY there are? Or even that they EXIST? Pop-up surprises do NOT work for me, thank you.
There is NO MENTION of their "Partnership" with eBay, on eBay.
There is NO MENTION of their "Partnership" with eBay on THEIR website.

In my experience, it's the companies with the longest disclaimers, and most boilerplate that you should fear. This outfit has more boilerplate than the Titanic - it's all about them, and not much about you.
If you are buying an item, and the checkout screens look DIFFERENT THAN NORMAL, leave immediately. That's my advice.
UPDATE: Further research has revealed the following non-ebay checkout systems -
Andale, Auctioncheckout, Bidpay, and Kyozou. These companies are mentioned here (not any more).

Did you find this eBay Buyers Guide helpful? If so, don't click anywhere.
Just be careful.
Thank you for your time.


I created this eBay Buying Guide, to help save new eBay buyers time and money. This page consists of a compilation of public information, commonly available on the internet, and my personal experience.

The opinions stated above are merely the personal opinions of the author.

Although the author makes every effort to verify the information on this page, no information on this page is guaranteed to be correct, and any data contained herein may be erroneous.


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This Vaughns eBay Buying Guide
was last updated on 2019-04-05.